Delhi BJP leaders back fireworks, AAP hits out
The flouting of the ban wiped out the gains from a precipitous spell of rain three days ago that allowed city residents to wake up to rare blue skies on Diwali
A political tussle over the spectacular failure in implementing a ban on fireworks that sprayed lungfuls of ultrafine PM2.5 pollutants into the city air broke out on Monday after some leaders of the Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appeared to back the flouting of the Supreme Court’s orders that effected the worst slump in air quality on Diwali day.
Two top leaders of the city BJP unit also put out celebratory remarks lauding the very actions that ensured Delhi woke up draped in a pall of smoke and haze on Monday morning.
Delhi BJP parliamentarian and former Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari said: “During Diwali very few firecrackers, and mostly green crackers were used in Delhi...but Congress and other parties have problem when people of Sanatan (Dharma) celebrate Diwali with crackers. The pollution was worst before Diwali, and even after people celebrated Diwali and burst crackers the pollution level is better than what it was before. The cause of pollution in Delhi is not Diwali firecrackers, but other sources of pollution. But anti-Sanatan people blame Diwali firecrackers for pollution. ”
His party colleague Kapil Mishra, the vice-president of the party’s Delhi unit, went a step further, and sought to praise people who violated the ban with impunity – claiming such illegal action that jeopardised the health of millions was somehow an act of resistance.
“Proud of you Delhi. These are voices of resistance , voices of freedom and democracy. People are bravely defying unscientific, illogical , dictatorial ban. Happy Diwali,” he posted at 9.50pm on Sunday night, even as the air rumbled with the sizzle and booms of illegal health hazards.
The flouting of the ban wiped out the gains from a precipitous spell of rain three days ago that allowed city residents to wake up to rare blue skies on Diwali morning, and also put the spotlight on the role of the Delhi Police, which allowed violators to have a free run on Sunday.
The Delhi Police reports to the Union home ministry, a point the Aam Aadmi Party sought to make. “The people of Delhi were cautious not to use firecrackers so that the air pollution did not worsen. But the way the BJP leaders egged people on (to burst firecrackers), people have to suffer due to pollution. I think the post-Diwali air could have been far better had the firecrackers not been used. I want to appeal to the people of Delhi that they should not come under the influence of the BJP which misleads the people because the air quality impacts us,” Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai said.
The senior AAP leader said BJP leaders who encouraged people to burst firecrackers “should introspect”.
“It is unfortunate that despite the Supreme Court order, the BJP is not shouldering its responsibility,” he said, noting that firecrackers were burst till late in the night in some parts including in the heart of the capital, Lutyens’ Delhi area.
The BJP hit back, blaming the AAP government for the ban on fireworks being poorly implemented. “The Delhi government announced a ban on bursting crackers on Diwali on September 12, but the notification for the ban on crackers was issued almost a month later on October 6. Firecracker shops in Delhi remained open during this time, and there was a good sale. Everyone knew there was a ban on crackers for Diwali, yet people stocked up, and the stock was used on Diwali,” leader of the Opposition in the Delhi assembly, Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, said.
“Rai should explain the reason for the delay in issuing the notification and who was responsible for this negligence. On the night of Diwali, no DM, SDM or any team from the Delhi government was seen on the ground. The Supreme Court had directed the Delhi government to impose a ban on fireworks, and the Delhi government has completely failed in implementing this ban,” he added.
Delhi BJP spokesperson Harish Khurana said the AAP failed to take steps to check stubble burning in Punjab, where it is in power. “After the Supreme Court’s rap, stubble burning stopped for two days in Punjab but yesterday 982 incidents of stubble burning were reported from Punjab out of a total of 1482. Instead of blaming the BJP, the AAP minister should talk to the Punjab CM and check stubble burning,” Khurana added.
While they bickered, the AQI climbed from 218 on Sunday to 358 at 4pm on Monday, and then to 403 at 10pm as the 24-hour rolling average started to take into account the true impact of Sunday night’s illegal bursting of fireworks.